Ricardo Gouveia promised there would be no let-up in his competitive drive as he arrived at the Kazakhstan Open with victory in his sights.
The Portuguese has a dominant lead at the top of the Road to Oman Rankings with just five events remaining on the European Challenge Tour calendar this season, with nine top ten finishes to his name already.
The 24 year old’s only win at the AEGEAN Airlines Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort (see video highlights below) has been supported by three second places and a tie for third, but he arrived at Almaty’s Nurtau GC on the back of his first missed cut of the season at the Cordon Golf Open.
However, Gouveia insists that his confidence is high and, though his place on The European Tour looks all but certain for next season, he wants another win in the biggest event of the Challenge Tour season to make it certain.
“I feel like I can shoot a good round every time I step up on the tee,” he said. “A good result is a win, of course. If not a top five would be good, but the goal is definitely to win.
“I haven’t targeted any tournament, I’ve just kept doing the same thing every week, but these big events are very important to play well in. I haven’t put any extra pressure on myself this week though, I’m just thinking of the same goals as I’ve been focusing on throughout the year and hopefully I can get the same results this week.
“I got a lot of confidence from the end of last season. I ended really well, almost perfectly in fact, and carried that into the start of this year. My form was good from the start and I got more confident every week.
“I made a mistake last week of relaxing too much, and that’s why I missed the cut. I was too relaxed and that was a good lesson to learn.
Last week was a wake up call - now I'm fully focused, fresh, and hopefully I can win here
“This was the first cut I’ve missed since August last year, but it came at a great time because I don’t want to dwell on past results, I want to keep going and improving.
“I felt I was a bit too relaxed last week so it was a bit of a wake up call, and now I’m fully focused this week. I’m feeling fresh, so it may have been a blessing in disguise. My game feels good and I just need to trust my game and keep doing the same things as all year and hopefully I can win here.”
After playing in France, Gouveia arrived in Kazakhstan too late to have a practice round, though he is confident that will not be a hindrance and was complimentary of what he had already seen of the course.
“I walked around the course this morning,” he said. “I got a pretty good feel of how it’s playing. It’s a really nice course, it’s a tree-lined course and there’s quite a lot of dog legs.
“You have to make sure you keep it in play as the rough is pretty high. If you miss the greens there are going to be some tough up-and-downs from the rough.
“This set up is different to what we usually experience on the Challenge Tour. The rough is really high and the greens seem firmer and faster than usual, but it’s great practice for next year on The European Tour where I will hopefully have this kind of course every week.
“It suits my game having to be straight off the tee and control the golf ball, keep it in play as much as possible and play smart.
“It’s very exciting now coming into the end of the season. My goal is to hold on to the number one position in the Rankings and if I do well this week I think it will be tough to lose that first spot.”
With the exception of Spain’s Nacho Elvira, who earned immediate promotion to The European Tour with his third victory of the season at the ROLEX Trophy last month, all of the leading Challenge Tour players are teeing up in Kazakhstan, where the €450,000 prize pot is the largest of the season.
Australian Scott Arnold claimed a maiden victory at the Cordon Golf Open last week and will hope to continue that form this week as he looks to move up from 18th in the Rankings into the top 15, who earn graduation to The European Tour at the season’s close.Also just below the top 15 are Germany’s Dominic Foos, England’s Max Orrin and American Daniel Im, all tournament winners this year who know a good performance this week will mean a big move up the Rankings as we move into the decisive part of the season.